"Let's Just Live Together."
That was how Pastor Bryan Carter of Concord Church in Dallas, Texas, titled the final sermon in his six-week series on maximizing singleness. But his intention was not to encourage singles to live together outside of marriage.
Instead, he prodded cohabiting singles of his congregation with a challenge: If you are not honoring God by your behavior, move out. And if you want to get married, the church will pay for it all: the gowns, tuxedos, rings, even the wedding cakes.
"I told them, 'We've already made arrangements, and we'll have you married in 30 days,' " Carter said of that Sunday morning. "I said, 'Meet me at the church at 3 o'clock and we'll provide more details.' "
He was worried that no one would show up. To his relief, and surprise, 30 couples came. In the ensuing weeks, they received premarriage counseling and an evaluation of their compatibility as a married couple. By the end of the 30 days, 18 of the couples showed up for the ceremony.
Some acted on the offer because they were convicted about the immorality of living together. Others took advantage of the opportunity because it offered them the dream they had always wanted but couldn't afford.
The weddings cost the church a total of $8,000, a bargain considering that a single typical wedding in that part of Dallas runs $18,000-$30,000. And this is not an affluent area.
That's part of the problem. Weddings today are being seen more as social affairs than as a public declaration of the lifelong union of one man and one woman. A young girl dreams about her Cinderella wedding. Then she finds as a young woman that she and her Prince Charming don't have the resources to pull off a big event. Because she can't separate the ceremony from the commitment, she decides that marriage must not be a reasonable option. Any time the cost of a wedding prevents a marriage, you realize the perspective is all wrong.
The other big part of the problem is that cohabitation has become much more acceptable to the public. In the last three decades, the number of unmarried couples has grown six-fold, and is increasing exponentially today.
"No one wants to get married anymore," Carter said. "They simply want to just live together and enjoy all the benefits of marriage without the commitment."
The reasons couples cohabit are varied, but generally fall into three categories:
- Distrust or devaluing of marriage as an institution or lifestyle.
- Cultural separation of marriage from sex and childbearing.
- Financial considerations.
When a culture reinforces the equal validity of all forms of relationships, I believe that God's original design for marriage stands out as one-of-a-kind gem among cheap imitations. We have the great privilege of showing what marriage is and what it can be.
Kudos to Pastor Carter and Concord Church for taking a stand against cohabitation and for showing that marriage is a commitment, not a ceremony; a means for mutual growth toward oneness, not a place to selfishly have needs met; and a blessing from God, meant to reflect the relationship He desires with those He created in His image.
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